Book Review- The Amber Amulet

P1100469 The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

I found this book in the sale section of Waterstones and bought it because I thought the illustrations were cool and it cost £1.  I had no idea what it was about, but it’s short so I went for it!

I don’t mean to pry, but saving people is my calling.
Yours Vigilantly, The Masked Avenger

The story centres around a 12yr old boy, Liam McKenzie who has a secret double identity as The Masked Avenger who sneaks out at night to help the neighbourhood- by putting out their wheely bin for collection or leaving a note about a flat tyre. Liam wears a carefully crafted uniform featuring his ‘Amazing Powerbelt’.  On his Powerbelt he keeps minerals such as quartz for balance and reason, and nickel for strength and endurance.

If you’re going to save a citizen pre-emptively, you’d best be confident your heroism is both necessary and required.

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Liam feels compelled to help a women he can tell is troubled and in an unhappy marriage.  He decides she needs The Amber Amulet to fight her unhappiness, because amber has special properties to make you happy.  After his trips out at night he reports what he has seen in his ‘Hero Log’.

As I was reading this book I was strongly reminded of The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon which is a very good book that came out in 2003.  It was about a young boy with autism who was attempting to discover who killed his neighbour’s dog. That book is a proper novel and delves into deeper, darker issues than The Amber Amulet (there is a dog in AA but rest assured it is not harmed!).

I can’t really switch off my brain like other people can because I have access to all the bits that normal citizens don’t use.  But that’s all right. It works out fine.

Although autism is never explicitly referred to, it seemed that much of Liam’s actions and beliefs were not quite what you would expect from a 12yr old (his amazement that he can command his dog to ‘sit’ for example). But I thought it was a really good and subtle depiction of mild autism, and I liked the way he describes it (see above).  It acknowledges the difficulties that come with being different but that you can find ways of using your difference to your advantage; you can’t get to sleep at night so you go out as The Masked Avenger and save people every night,

I really liked this book, although I wish it had been longer not just a short story (86 pages).  The illustrations are really nice and the story is simple and touching.  I did wonder who the target audience was for the book.  The same as with The Curious Incident, it’s a book about a child struggling to understand the adult world and I’m not sure I would have appreciated it when I was a teenager. But as an adult I kind of want more than just a novella, although I do think more adult books should have illustrations.